The Kitchen Prep: April 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pick Your "Poison"

I picked Steve up from work yesterday {We've been a one vehicle family for quite some time now. Makes life interesting, but saves a lot of dough.}, and on our brief drive home he asked me what I made for dinner. I told him I made fish with homemade hoisin sauce.

"Poison sauce??", I hear him say over the wind coming through the open windows.

Oh, good grief.

I may get annoyed when he leaves his socks in random places around the house; forgets to put things away after he makes himself a snack; eats something I had intentions of photographing for the blog... but I certainly have no intention of serving him "Poison Sauce" for dinner. Silly husband.

I served up this flavorful fish with some roasted asparagus, and a super quick side of gluten free noodles, sauteed onion & broccoli that I tossed with the leftover hoisin sauce.

 The only "killer" quality about this meal is how simple it is to throw together. Let's keep it that way.

Hoisin Glazed Fish & Noodles
Sauce recipe barely adapted from Food Network

2-4 fillets of your favorite fish, defrosted {I used Haddock because that's what I bought on sale}
1/4 cup soy sauce {we use gluten free}
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon pepper

rice noodles {I use linguine cut gluten free noodles}
1/2 a white onion, sliced
1 small head of broccoli, chopped into bite size florets
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to broil {approx 500 degrees}. Line a small sheet pan with foil and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, tomato paste, ginger, garlic, hot sauce, brown sugar, cider vinegar, and pepper. Whisk together until combined thoroughly. Set aside.

Place defrosted fish fillets in a shallow dish, and pour half of hoisin sauce over fish. Allow to marinate for 8-10 minutes while you make the noodles. Remove fillets from sauce and place on prepared pan. Brush fish with the sauce it was sitting in and discard the rest.

Broil for 7-9 minutes {depending on the thickness of fish} or until fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork. {Be careful not to overcook. I do it all the time.}


For the noodles, bring a salted pot of water to a boil. Add noodles {I only used half a package}, and cook according to package directions until al dente.

Meanwhile, add olive oil to a medium pan over medium high heat. Add onions and broccoli. Cook until onion is translucent and broccoli is tender crisp. Set aside or keep on low heat.

When noodles are cooked, drain water and add noodles to broccoli and onion. Stir in remaining hoisin sauce and toss gently to coat vegetables and noodles.

Friday, April 20, 2012

It's My {Pity} Party & I'll Bake If I Want To

I hate that this is on a red, plastic base, but it's my cake carrier
& I wasn't about to risk moving it and dropping the cake!
Confession time: I was having a bit of a pity party yesterday.

It happens.

In the midst of baking a cake for my mother-in-law {and messing up the texture of the frosting, starting out with a sloppy piping job, and just about running out of time to finish it before work...}, I started thinking.

Too much. About silly things like blog statistics and readership. Ad space and content. Food styling and photography. And my novice status on all of the above things.

Self doubt has its way of rearing it's ugly head from time to time. Especially when fueled by comparison. It's a terrible thing {and sort of makes me want to stick my head in the sand, ostrich-style, and check out as little as possible "out there" in the food blogging world.}

This tends to happen when I start thinking about what I want and where I am and how much further I have to go. I have often said before that I am my worst critic. No one could be more demanding or set higher expectations than those I set for myself. {In general, not just in blog world.}

And since I am constantly raising that proverbial bar, many times I end up feeling like I'm eons away from getting to where I want to go.

But then...

I receive one tiny comment. One satisfied "Mmm..." following a forkful of cake. An inquiry from a server at a fine restaurant asking if I have considered becoming a pastry chef. {Which, to me, is more of a compliment than asking if I've considered becoming Miss America. To each his own, I suppose.}

And just like that, I realize that sometimes you just have to acknowlege that your "reward" may not come from a spike in readership or your own show on Food Network. After all, those were never my reasons for starting this project {or any} project to begin with.

Many times when people have asked why I do this {the blog, that is}, I find myself scrambling for a valid reason that will satisfy their curiosity... and that's when I begin to question myself. {Surely, no sane person would spend hours on end cooking, photographing, and writing just because.}

Until yesterday, I had not come to terms with the fact that I have a love for food, plain and simple. That I don't have to have a reason or proof to show for it. That I can write this blog just because I want to and not for the purpose of money, recognition, or reward. {Though, let's be honest, those things can be nice, too.}

I considered keeping these thoughts to myself, but the truth is, this blog is about sharing. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, I decided to put it all out there. Because who knows... some of you might be feeling the same way. About your own doubts, projects, and anxieties. About the unknown or the "thought-you-knew".

So, consider this an official invite to what started out as a pity party. But let's not call it that anymore. Let's turn it into a celebration. And I'll bring the cake.

Fresh Strawberry Cake & Quick Buttercream Frosting recipes both from Confessions of a Foodie Bride*

*I made two 8 inch round cakes with this recipe and sliced each in half to create a 4 layer cake. Each layer was covered with Quick Buttercream Frosting and a thin layer of  leftover Strawberry Puree that I thickened up a bit on the stovetop. Any other questions, feel free to ask! :)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

One Zucchini, Two Zucchini...

Scenario: You open your fridge and discover that you have an excess amount of zucchini on the verge of spoiling. In an effort to use it up, you:

A. Prepare a zucchini based meal for dinner.
B. Close the refrigerator and order take out.
C. Grate it, add a few cups of sugar, and make these:

We eat tons of zucchini and we can never get enough. Naturally, it wasn't long before I discovered that the veggie that I love to eat in savory dishes could easily be transformed into a sweet snack as well. {Sugar always finds a way in this house.}

I've made lots of versions of Zucchini Bread in the past, but I've got to tell you... this one is my favorite.

Normally, I barely consume any of the baked goods I make. These muffins are the exception. I have eaten almost every last one... all by myself.

They have been a fantastic accompaniment to my morning cup of coffee, the perfect afternoon snack before heading to work, and a great solution for my sweet craving after dinner. {Note: I limit one per day.}

The combination of chocolate and orange is SO scrumptious. And the little hint of cinnamon and nutmeg gives these just a tiny bit of warmth. Like I said, so good.

So, don't be afraid to buy a few extra pieces of zucchini next time you're at the grocery store. I promise you will find a way to use them all up.

Orange Scented Zucchini Chip Bread
adapted from Taste of Home: Complete Guide to Baking

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon grated orange peel {from one large orange}
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup mini {or regular} semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-in. x 5-in.loaf pans {alternately, you can turn these into muffins and alter cooking time accordingly}. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and baking powder.

In another bowl, beat the eggs, applesauce, oil, orange zest, and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients until just moistened. {Do not overmix}. Fold in zucchini and chocolate.

Divide mixture evenly between greased loaf pans, or muffin tins. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. {Or 18-20 minutes for muffins. Just keep an eye on them.} Cool for 20 minutes before removing from loaf pans. {Or remove from muffin tins & place on cooling rack for muffins.}

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring Cleaning

Saturday afternoon I spent forever some time sitting cross-legged in my garage going through boxes that I've been putting off sorting through for years. {Check out TKP's Facebook page to see a picture of how I lured the husband into helping...}

Organizing and spring cleaning takes me forever and a day because I tend to start reminiscing as I go through each piece. {Not to mention, it starts to bring out hoarding tendencies that I never even knew I had.}

So, after hours of sifting through "vintage finds", I called it a day and retreated to the comfort of my couch where I rewarded myself with browsing hundreds of posts that have been accumulating in my Google Reader, and pinning about a bajillion things that I'm dying to try.

Oddly enough, the recipe I'm sharing with you isn't one of those, but rather, it's inspired by one I found in an old {Circa 2001} Weight Watchers magazine I found in a box that hadn't been opened for about 7 years.

Guess all that sifting was worth it after all.

This particular magazine was not exactly filled with gems {I'm not a huge fan of recipes that start with "Open 1 bag of instant mashed potatoes."...}, but I did flip through and find a few recipes that looked interesting or could be modified to fit my personal meal ideals.

This recipe was originally "Bean-Goat Cheese Tostadas with Tomato Mango Salsa". But guess what? The hubs and I spend our Sunday kayaking in the gorgeous sunshine instead of tending to errands such as grocery shopping, so we didn't have a mango on hand. We did, however, have some nectarines that have been hanging around waiting to be used or eaten... problem solved.

So, I present to you... Pinto Bean & Goat Cheese Tostadas topped with Nectarine Salsa. An eclectic combo, I know, but fantastically good!

Don't be scared, that's just a nectarine!

If garage cleaning can inspire such yummy things, I may just have to start doing it more often. :)

Pinto Bean & Goat Cheese Tostadas
Inspired by Weight Watchers Magazine - Down to Earth

5-6 corn tortillas
non-stick cooking spray
1 can pinto beans, rinsed & drained
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 lime {juice divided}
goat cheese {or, if you're not a fan, your favorite crumbly cheese. Queso fresco maybe?}

Nectarine Salsa

1-2 nectarines, pitted & diced
2 small plum tomatoes, diced
1/4 {approx}of a white onion, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon honey
juice from half a lime
sea salt

For Tostadas:

Prehead oven to 350 degrees. On a large sheet pan, spread out corn tortillas so that they are not overlapping. Give them a light spray with cooking spray, or alternately, bruch lightly with a coat of olive oil. Bake until lightly golden and edges begin to get wavy, 10-12 minutes. {But keep an eye on them just in case.} Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. {They'll get crunchier during this time.}

Meanwhile, place rinsed pinto beans in a medium bowl. Add chili powder, cumin, coriander, and the juice from half a lime. Mash with a fork until desired consistency is reached. Set aside.

For Salsa:

In another bowl, combine diced nectarine, tomatoes, white onion, cilantro, honey, a sprinkle of sea salt and juice from the remaining half of a lime. Combine well.

To assemble:

Spread a few tablespoons of pinto bean mixture onto each tostada. {You may want to heat up the beans for a minute in the microwave if you prefer them warm.} Top with nectarine salsa, and sprinkle with goat cheese.

Garnish with chopped cilantro if desired.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Give In To the Heat

I am loving our little trips to the produce store I mentioned a few weeks ago. Loving.

Half the time I don't even have plans for what I'm going to make with the things I buy. I just wander up and down the {two. Yes, two.} aisles and pick up whatever tickles my fancy.

"Why, hello, weird looking vegetable. You will be very happy in my kitchen. Hi there, pretty leafy green. In the basket you go."

I'm like a kid in a candy store. {With less risk for cavities.}

It's been kinda fun buying produce that I've never cooked with before. For one, we've upped our veggie intake quite a bit. And our meals have gotten a lot more exotic and creative.

Normally, once the mercury starts rising {and around here, it already has}, the dishes I'm inclined to make are lighter, cooler, and as simply prepared as possible. {Sorry, oven, we're already roasting without your help.}

But when I bought some poblano peppers last week and then found a recipe for Creamy Potato Soup with Poblano & Mushrooms, my craving beat out the sweltering temps and I made up my mind to crank up the air conditioning and making a pot of steaming hot soup for dinner.

It was a good decision.

The charred poblanos add a spicy kick to the soup, and I love the heartiness of the potatoes and mushrooms.

Step outside your comfort zone and pick up some veggies that catch your eye next time you're in the grocery store. If it turns out half as good as this soup, you'll be glad you ventured outside the "broccoli zone". :)

Creamy Potato Soup with Poblano & Mushrooms
Slightly adapted from Smart Cooking the Costco Way

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 white onion, diced
8 ounches mushrooms {I used white button}
1 garlic clove, minced or grated
2 poblano peppers, charred under broiler*, skin removed & cut into 1/4 inch dice
3 small to medium Yukon gold or other creamy potato, cut into 1/2 inch dice
3 cups chicken broth mixed with 1 cup water
1/2 cup half and half
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium heat. In a medium pot, add chicken broth and water and bring to a boil.  

Add onions to skillet and saute until translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and peppers, saute for another minute or two. Finally, add mushrooms, and saute until slightly cooked down.

Add skillet mixture to pot with boiling broth, followed by potatoes. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. 

Scoop out about half the vegetables and about 1/2 cup of broth {less vegetables if you want your soup more chunky}, and puree in a blender. While blender runs, add 1/2 cup of half and half.

Return the puree to soup and stir well.

Reheat the soup to a simmer and season to taste with salt and pepper.
*To char peppers: Set oven to broil. Move oven rack to highest spot. Line a small baking sheet with foil. Place whole peppers on baking sheet and put on highest oven rack. Allow peppers to cook until skin blisters {about 4-6 minutes}, then flip and broil other side. {Keep an eye out, the broiler is powerful}.

Remove peppers from oven and allow to cool enough to handle.  You should be able to easily remove charred skin from pepper. If not, place peppers in a brown paper bag or plastic bag and allow steam to loosen skin until it is easier to peel off.

Pull out stem, slice peppers open and remove seeds.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Good Egg!

We're heading to the in laws' house to start our Easter celebrations in just a few hours, but I couldn't wait until next week to show you my Easter cake creation!

The cake is an Almond-Scented White Cake with Raspberry filling. I had some trouble cutting the tender layers in half when I was assembling it {read: There was crumbled cake & a very disgruntled baker in my kitchen yesterday afternoon...}, so I wound up with a 2 layer cake instead of a 4 layer cake as intended.

Do you think anyone will care how many layers there are when they see this super cute nest on top?! {Distract them with pretty decorations, that's the plan!}

I made the nest out of Chow Mein noodles tossed in chocolate candy coating, and let them set in a small bowl lined with plastic wrap so it would take it's "nesty" shape. The eggs are malted milk eggs I found at the grocery store. Super easy!

Did you get creative in the kitchen for your Easter or Passover celebrations? Were your recipes new, first time endeavors or are you sticking with old, tried and true traditional ones?

No matter what you are celebrating with family & friends this weekend, I hope there are smiles all around!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hop To It! {A Speedy Easter Treat}

I am up to my {bunny} ears in projects, orders, and baking today, but I wanted to leave you with a super quick "recipe" for something that you must make for the special little ones that will be gathering around your Easter table this weekend.

As I mentioned yesterday, my original plans for Easter treats kinda fell apart through, so I went on my very own Easter hunt of sorts for an alternative plan. Ever the treasure trove of creative ideas, Pinterest came through for me once again when I found this idea for "Bunny Bait" {I would credit the original, but I've seen so many versions I have no idea where it started!}.

It was the perfect solution for whipping up a speedy treat to take to the kiddies at work. {Thank goodness, because I literally had half an hour to make something!}

The combo of popcorn, pretzels, M&M's, mini marshmallows, Easter sprinkles, and white chocolate coating makes a sweet and salty snack that will please kids, adults, and cotton-tailed visitors alike.

Package the mix in a cute little bag, print out an adorable tag, tie on some pretty ribbon, and just like that you've got a fun little gift to add to any Easter basket!

You can add or omit any ingredient you want to this customizable mix {I was thinking next time I'd try out a healthier version}, and make it your own.

As a little bonus, I'm sharing the labels I made on Publisher for you to download & print onto some cardstock! {You're welcome, cheaters!} ;)
Bunny Bait Labels

{*Labels made using background downloaded from, Office clipart, and font from}

Bunny Bait
1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
1 cup Easter M&M's or pastel candies
1 cup broken mini pretzels or whole pretzel sticks
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
1/2 cup white chocolate candy coating, melted to pourable consistency {I used Ghiradelli. If your coating isn't liquid enough, you can add 1 tablespoon of vegetable or canola oil and stir until desired thickness is reached.}
Pastel sprinkles
Pop popcorn. {I make my own by adding unpopped kernels to a brown paper bag & microwaving, but you can use the regular stuff if you prefer.}
Place onto a large sheet tray or in a very large bowl.
Toss M&M's, pretzels, marshmallows, and sprinkles together on sheet tray or in bowl.
Drizzle melted candy coating over popcorn mixture. Toss together carefully, making sure to coat all pieces. {I have a Calphalon sheet tray with a lid that I closed & shook to coat evenly.}
Allow candy coating to set. {If you're in a rush, place in the rerigerator for 10-15 minutes.}

Break apart any large clumps and scoop into desired packaging.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cake for Any Occasion

I have to confess: I buckled a little under the pressure of coming up with an Easter recipe post.

{It seems to happen to me every time a holiday comes around.}

I wanted to make something cutesy -- you know, bunnies and eggs and chicks and the like -- but sadly, all my plans of fluffy grandeur crumbled to pieces. {Literally. I was making Easter Oreo pops, but the darn things kept falling apart!}

Once those fell through, I figured I could share what I'd be making for the weekend... but my family and I are celebrating Easter Sunday with brunch at a restaurant, so the only cooking I will be responsible for is a cake for Saturday's celebration with my in laws. Since that cake won't be baked until tomorrow, that leaves me with... well... nothing to post about until after the fact. No good.

I have gone through this enough times now that I've learned not to fight it when things start to go awry in the kitchen. And since my pulse began racing the minute I woke up this morning as I started thinking about my list of things to do before the start of this very busy weekend, the solution became glaringly obvious: Share something not intended for Easter that could be made for Easter.

No one will know the difference. Except now I've just divulged my secret and the truth is out.

Regardless, I think you might forgive the manipulation after I give you the recipe for this cake because, despite the lack of bunnies and all, it is beautiful, impressive, and so very good.

 When I found this recipe on the Lindt website a few months back, it screamed "special occasion cake" to me. The gorgeous display of strawberries lining the perimeter of the cake; the pillowy center of coconut creme; the smooth, silky layer of ganache glistening on the top... there's no doubt about it, this cake is a showstopper.

Pardon my thumbprint on the left side of the cake... a little removal issue. ;)

I made this Strawberry Coconut Torte for my sister's birthday in March, and everyone loved it. {In fact, my sweet grandma - Queen of Moderation - had two slices! Here's photo evidence of her admiration of the cake that I posted on TKP's Facebook page.} It is surprisingly light and just the right amount of sweet. {And there's fruit involved. Bonus points.}

So, while this wasn't originally intended for my Easter post, I think it will make the perfect dessert for your celebration this weekend. And if you insist upon dressing it up to make it a little more "Easter", then heck, I can't see why a Peep wouldn't be perfectly content sitting atop this masterpiece. :)

Strawberry Coconut Torte
Adapted from Lindt


4 eggs, separated
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2/3 cup flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1.75oz Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa Bar, melted
3 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

For Simple Syrup:

1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons water

Coconut Créme

1 pint strawberries, washed and cleaned, tops cut off
1 1/4 envelopes of granulated gelatin
1 cup + 4 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar


1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
3.5oz Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa Bar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon sour cream or Greek yogurt {optional}

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray an 8" or 9" springform pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a mixer, combine egg yolks and powdered sugar and whip until creamy. Meanwhile, sift the flour and cocoa together in a small bowl. Slowly add flour mixture to the yolk mixture until just combined.
Fold in the melted butter and melted chocolate.

In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff. Carefully fold 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the batter.Fold in the remaining egg whites. {This part might be tricky because the batter is super thick & sticky. Just take your time, it will incorporate eventually.}

Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and bake approximately 25 minutes {keep an eye out, once the edges start to pull away a little and the cake springs back when touched lightly, it's ready}. Once baked, remove from springform pan and cool completely.

To make simple syrup: In a saucepan, combine the 1/2 cup sugar with 6 tablespoons of water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Pour half of syrup into a small bowl and set aside for later use. Stir vanilla & almond extracts into remaining half of syrup.

Cut the cooled cake in half horizontally {like a layer cake}. Spoon or brush the syrup equally onto both cut halves of the cake. Place half of the cake into the clean springform pan.

Cut half the container of strawberries in half and place along the edge of the spring form pan with the cut side facing out, touching the walls of the pan. {You will want to use like sized strawberries for this part, if possible, for a uniform look}. Slice the rest of the strawberries and arrange along cake bottom. {If desired, set aside a few strawberries to decorate the top of the cake.}

For the coconut creme: Heat 4 tablespoons of the coconut milk in a heatproof bowl until warm {about 30-45 seconds in microwave}. Sprinkle the granulated gelatin over the coconut milk and do not stir. After 5 minutes, whisk until completely dissolved.

Warm the remaining coconut milk, and stir in the gelatin. Cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer {or with a hand held mixer}, whip heavy cream until until stiff, then slowly add the sugar. Fold whipped cream into cooled coconut milk.

Carefully pour the coconut créme over the strawberries in the springform pan, making sure to cover strawberry tops and smooth out evenly. Place the second half of the cake on top and very lightly press down.

Place in the refrigerator for minimum of 1 hour.

For Ganache: Bring the heavy cream to a slight simmer, remove from heat and stir in the butter and chocolate and let the mixture cool down. Stir remaining simple syrup into the chocolate. Stir in tablespoon of sour cream or Greek yogurt if desired. Pour evenly over the torte.

Return to the refrigerator and cool for minimum 2 hours.

To Serve: Carefully run a knife along the edge of the pan. {Take care not to displace strawberries.} Release the springform and carefully remove.Transfer the torte to a serving plate or cake stand.

Garnish with strawberries or Easter accouterments!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dinner for Superwomen {and Men}

Lately, it's been a miracle if I can manage to go grocery shopping before mid-week, let alone cook fabulous things with the items I buy, put the finished product on a plate in a semi-presentable fashion, photograph it relatively decently, and post a simple, delectable recipe for you to add to your weekday arsenal. {The irony, huh?}

{And we don't even have kids yet. Lord, help us.}

No matter how organized I try to be, things just get... busy. I'm sure you can identify.

Yesterday was one of those days when I just wanted to say,"The heck with this!" and gun it to the nearest drive-thru. {For the record, I cannot remember the last time we ate anything that came from a drive-thru. Years, at least.}

But, I didn't.

Instead, I stood in front of our refrigerator and channelled my inner Bree Van de Kamp. {Minus the whole murderous housewife thing.} I powered through the urge to order take out, and prepared a quick meal that - unbeknownst to me - would turn out fantastically. {At least that's what I took away from the man-grunts that escaped my husband's lips when I asked him if he liked it.}

And so, I figured I'd share it with you since you might just be gravitating towards your car keys right now lured by the siren song of the closest place that serves anything that comes in a grease proof liner.

When dinner on the fly turns out like this, you will be glad you exercised your McWillpower.

Easy Bruschetta Chicken comes together in a snap. Cook your chicken. Chop up some tomatoes and herbs. Melt a little mozzarella over the top. And voila. You just gained some Superwoman points and saved yourself a few extra thigh dimples.

Now go grab yourself a glass of wine. You deserve it.

Easy Bruschetta Style Chicken

2 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 to 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped into small dice
5 leaves of fresh basil, chopped fine
1 small clove garlic, minced or grated
1 to 2 oz. mozzarella cheese
sea salt
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar {optional}

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat.

Season chicken breasts with salt, garlic powder, and onion powder on each side. Place chicken breasts in hot skillet and cook 6-8 minutes or until browned. Flip over and cook for an additional 4-6 minutes or until just cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add chopped tomato, chopped basil, grated garlic, a sprinkle of salt, and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Combine thoroughly.

When chicken is just about done, remove from skillet {or if you have an oven proof skillet, you can just use that} and place onto a small foil-lined cookie sheet. Top with a few spoonfuls of tomato mixture, and desired amount of mozzarella cheese {I just cut a few small slices from a block, but you can use shredded or fresh... whatever you have}.

Place in preheated oven and allow cheese to melt 5-8 minutes. {This step will also help subdue the raw garlic flavor in the tomato mixture.}

As an optional step, add 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Boil until reduced by about half. {Keep an eye on it, it will evaporate quickly and you'll be left with balsamic molasses if you let it go too long.}

Remove chicken from oven and place on a plate. Drizzle with balsamic reduction if desired.

Serve with a side of whatever you have time to make! {In my case, a glass of red wine. Ha!} :)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Orange" You Glad It's Springtime?

I know, I know. The post title... total cheese. But it's Sunday evening, and I'm lucky I have enough brain cells left to figure out how to type, let alone try and be witty after a long week and a fun {but exhausting} weekend out of town.

So, yes, the recipe I'm sharing today is - you guessed it - orange flavored.

I don't know why springtime makes me think of oranges {they are actually a winter fruit}, but here in sunny Florida, there isn't a season without the sweet, citrusy goodness of fresh, juicy oranges. They are perfectly welcome in my kitchen year round because I happen to enjoy them quite a bit.

A few days ago, in a fit of spring cleaning madness, I came across a cookbook that was given to me by a friend during my time in Texas {Thank you, Miss Angela! It is still one of my favorites!}. Though I pass by the bookshelf where it sits daily, I sometimes forget what gems good old fashioned, turn-the-page cookbooks are. {Sadly, I do a lot of my recipe browsing online these days and the cookbooks sit and collect dust until I remember how great they are.}

Every time I think to crack one of my old cookbooks open, I'm rewarded with memories, great recipes, and the occasional smile that comes from finding pages that are splattered with remnants of rogue, airborne ingredients. There's just nothing like opening up to a recipe and feeling the grit of flour and sugar crystals on the paper. {Take that, iPads.}

As I thumbed through the pages of Taste of Home's Complete Guide to Baking, I came across a whole section on quick breads and thought that it sounded like the perfect, easy sweet baking project for the week.

The Orange Yogurt Bread I chose to bake is quick and easy, and you most likely have almost all the ingredients you need right in your pantry and fridge. {Double winner.} It is mildly sweet, and has a hint of orange flavor running throughout thanks to the dose of fragrant orange zest added to the batter. A tangy orange juice glaze adds a touch of extra sweetness and a pleasant sugary crunch to the crusty top. {My favorite part!}

Oranges may not be a spring fruit, but I'm thankful that spring cleaning helped me rediscover this recipe... one that I plan on enjoying again and again no matter what season.

Orange Yogurt Bread
Slightly adapted from Taste of Home's Complete Guide to Baking

2/3 cup butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 to 3 teaspoons orange juice
A few drops of vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, incorporating well after each addition.  Add yogurt, orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla extract. 

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Slowly add to creamed butter mixture and stir in until just incorporated, careful not to overmix.

Pour into a greased 9 in. x 5 in. x 3 in. loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. {If top is browning too quickly, cover loosely with a piece of foil and continue to bake.}

Remove from oven when done and cool slightly.

Meanwhile, combine confectioners' sugar and orange juice in a small bowl {add one tablespoon at a time until desired consistence is reached.} Drizzle over bread while still slightly warm.

{Allow bread to cool for at least 30-40 minutes before  removing from pan or cutting to avoid a crumbly mess. I know it's hard because it smells so darn good, but trust me, you'll be glad you did.}